Oregon #1 for Highest Rate of Vaccine-Exempt Kids

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, May 8 2013 at 6:13 PM, Updated: Wed, May 8 2013 at 6:42 PM

From number three, to number one in 2013, Oregon is now at the top of the list for the highest rate of vaccine exemptions for kindergartners.

"It's scary," began Dr. Mona Mcardle, who practices at Valley Immediate Care.

"We think of Chicken Pox as being benign, well people are hospitalized because of Chicken Pox."

According to data, 26 counties in the beaver state saw an uptick in exemption rates this year.

"We had 18 deaths in the United States last year from whooping cough alone. That's 18 children. Sandy Hook had a horrible 20 children all die at once, but yet the 18 deaths...we have a way of preventing these infections," she said.

In Oregon there were 800 diagnosed cases of whooping cough and according to the study, 2012 also saw the highest rates for whooping cough cases in the United States.

The troubling part of it, doctors say, a number of counties have passed the point where something called "herd immunity" could stop working.

"Herd immunity means that enough people in the community are vaccinated that protects the ones who cannot be vaccinated," said Dr. Mcardle.

But not all doctors see all vaccinations the same.          

While Dr. Daniel Smith, a naturopathic physician at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic, said he supports the current vaccination program, parents still need to consider potential risks.

"There's risks on both sides, there's not a perfect answer to the question should I vaccinate or should I not vaccinate," Dr. Smith said.

On the one hand, he said parents should consider the well-being of the general population and the children who will be born after their kids, but on the other hand...

"It's also important to think about what's in the vaccine." 

According to Dr. Smith, a classic example is a mercury-based preservative called Thimerosal. It used to be in vaccines but has since been removed.

He said the continued concern is there are still other additives which have not been removed.

He suggests parents do their homework about each vaccine and its ingredients before deciding.

Meantime, in Salem, legislators are considering Senate Bill 132. If passed, parents would be required to watch an educational online video and get a signature from their doctor before opting out of getting their child vaccinated.

Washington state passed similar legislation in 2011 and it resulted in a 25% decrease in immunization exemptions.

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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